At PAX Aus 2019, we were fortunate enough to be able to speak with Mitch from Giant Margarita about their upcoming physics puzzle game: Squidgies Takeover.
Alex: Hello everyone, I’m Alex from Switchaboo and I’m joined here by Mitch from Giant Margarita. How are you today?
Mitch: I’m doing pretty good, how are you?
A: Good, thank you. Last day at PAX but it still seems pretty busy at the moment, everyone is still checking some stuff out.
M: Yeah, Sunday is our quietest day yet we’re still packed to the brim, but it’s been good!
A: Amazing! So tell us a little bit about Squidgies Takeover.
M: Think Lemmings but with physics – that’s been our go-to tagline if Lemmings wasn’t so copy-written [laughs]. So it’s a physics-based puzzle game where you have to save these cute balls of squids that we call Squidgies and the idea is that you’re taking over planets with each level. We have seven different types of power-ups that all work in different ways and towards the later stages of the game, you start to combine them together.
A: And Squidgies Takeover is exclusive to Nintendo Switch, is that right?
M: Correct. Exclusive to Nintendo Switch for now and I believe it’ll stay that way for the foreseeable future.
A: Gotcha! So what kind of Switch exclusive features can we expect?
M: So we have the touchscreen as our primary form of controls. You are able to play it in docked mode using the Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons as a pointer, just like the old Wii remote days except it’s so much better and so much smaller. The touchscreen isn’t available on other consoles and it doesn’t work so well on PC with a mouse so that’s why it went to Nintendo Switch. We feel as though our brand fits there as well.
A: Absolutely, A colourful aesthetic always works really well! You were saying to me earlier that Squidgies Takeover is good for beginners but also contains challenges for more adept players.
M: 100%. We went in with a small idea of what we wanted the game to be and crafted that idea over time with multiple audiences in mind. We have little kids come on by and they finish the levels – they finish them badly but that’s OK – they still unlock the next level. So they progress, they may not progress the same way as most other people, but kids can finish our game. For our older audiences, we have it so that you can save as many Squidgies as possible on every level and also some challenges that we call Feats. In every single level, to which there’s 82 of them, they have their own unique challenges that could be as simple as killing them all or something as simple as finishing the level as fast as possible (e.g. under 11 seconds) and others that use the level’s geometry in a very specific way that is tailored to the game.
A: Without spoiling too much, can you go over some of the abilities?
M: Our first power-up is called Push. Our Push Squidgie accelerates all of their friends by moving through them. Oftentimes you’ll have to leave that Squidgie behind unless you have one of our later power-ups that turns them back to normal. My personal favourite is the Tubed Squidgie which functions sort of like a portal from the game Portal where they go in one end and come out the other and conserve all their momentum, allowing for interesting ways for levels to play out. You can start to get Squidgies going hundreds of Kilometres per hour through the Tube and they come flying out the other way. We have four others and while I can’t spoil everything…
A: You have to keep some secrets…
M: Exactly. We’ve got our Splat which is simple enough. All it does is stop them dead, not effected by gravity. Then we combine that with a Grapple Squidgie, let’s say, and all that does is turn a Squidgie into a grapple – a sort of ridged rope – and it lets them swing. So in later levels, you’ll begin to see combinations, so you’ll have the Splat Squidgie high up in the air and your Grapple Squidgie will come from the air and connecting to that Splat Squidgie itself, making awkward chains of Squidgies grappling off of each other and then going into a tube and flying across to the other side.
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A: Sounds like it gets quite complex!
M: 100%. We have 82 levels and we’ve kind of created them based on difficulty.
A: Fantastic! Is there any multiplayer planned for the game?
M: Not multiplayer, per se. We do have global leaderboards as an additional source of challenge once you’ve completed all of the Planets on the level – Planets are our star rating system as per normal puzzle games – and all of those feats that I mentioned about earlier will push you to those leaderboards.
A: And can you tell us about the game’s development in late 2019, how it’s all coming along and what kind of road blocks that you had along the way?
M: Yeah definitely, we’ve had a fun time with it but at the same time, it’s been incredibly stressful. We’re doing this as a university project and it’s been two thirteen-week semesters. So in 26 weeks, we’ve come from pretty much nothing, the fledglings of a game, to one that’s very nearly published – hopefully by mid November – on a Nintendo system.
A: That’s very impressive! It looks really good for just 26 weeks.
M: Yeah well, we have two dedicated artists and then four other people working on the game working on other capacities like programming and game design in general. There have been roadblocks; we lost a team member partway through the year, through no fault of their own or anyone else’s, and we’ve struggled with Nintendo’s process at times. Those leaderboards that I was talking about, there are very stringent guidelines on how to use those and occasionally you can mess up – but that’s game development!
A: Yeah, it’s all part of it! We’d like to acknowledge everyone who has worked on Squidgies Takeover, so can you tell us about everyone who worked on your team?
M: So we’ve got Sally, our amazing artist who does all of the artistic side of things like all the Squidgies and whatnot, as well as our contract artist, Christiana King, who is also Hobart-based and is also amazing. Our second team member is our project lead who’s also done technical art. He implements elements such as fire and electricity which had a lot of maths involved; he is a genius at such things. Lachlan Fisher does a lot of our grunt work – he has put in so much time to ensure that each level works as it should and has implemented a lot of things behind the scenes.
We’ve also got a lot of my friends like Reece Prestige and Angus who have done a lot of the testing, making sure every level functions the way that it should, and bringing forth game design opinions and improvements to the table. Lastly there’s me and I’ve worked on a hodgepodge of things. As with all indie studios, we’re all-rounders, so I’ve done a lot of press, I do interviews like these but I’ve also done work on the UI, had input on how the game should play and new player experience for those who are brand new to the game, how they will interact with it and how they should interact with it. We’ve had George Begby who is a musical genius, also Hobart-based and we love him to bits! He does all of our music and sound effects and he had such a quick turnaround; in two weeks we went from having no sound to all of it done.
A: Oh wow, that’s very impressive and it sounds like a very impressive roster there!
M: Overall, everyone has been pretty good to have a game under their belt, especially as most of us are third-year students, having a game under our belt before we’ve even graduated is a pretty big achievement.
A: You all should be very proud of yourselves and just by looking at the game, it looks fantastic – especially for only 26 weeks! So when can we expect to play Squidgies Takeover on Nintendo Switch?
M: We’re looking at mid-November, maybe late November depending on how the Nintendo certification process goes. After that, we’re looking at adding free content later into the year or early next year but we’ll see how all that goes.
A: Is there anything else you’d like to let our readers know?
M: I guess just to play our game and check it out! We’ll be showing it wherever we can (like PAX next year) and we’ll still be showing it into next year. And hopefully, tell your friends [laughs].
A: And where can people find you and your game?
M: We’ve got a fair few presences. We’ve got a Twitter which is just @GiantMargarita that has our little margarita glass, not the pizza but the drink [laughs]. And we’ve got a discord which is just discord.gg/giantmargarita, so please come and say hi and tell us what you think of the game. We love community feedback and we’d love to implement some of your ideas.
A: Fantastic! Well, thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to us today Mitch, I really appreciate it.
M: No worries at all! Thank you for taking your time to come out and see me.
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